Country Profile: Nicaragua


Honey processed coffee on raised beds in Nicaragua. Photo by Cafe Imports

Dubbed with the title “the land of lakes and volcanoes”, the nation Nicaragua offers a dynamic and diverse experience to its inhabitants, its visitors and its coffee consumers. Nicaragua is the largest country out of all the Central American republics. It also has a unique history, as it is the only nation to be colonised by both the Spanish and the British.

History

Catholic Missionaries brought coffee to Nicaragua in 1790. While initially grown out of curiosity, it wasn’t until 1840 that coffee started to attract attention (due to the increasing market demand, along with a strong trade & travel investment from the U.S.).

From 1840 to 1940, coffee had a dramatic impact on the national economy of Nicaragua. This period has since been titled the ‘Coffee Boom’. Coffee rapidly grew in value, and thus, required an increased amount of resources and labour. By 1870, coffee was the primary export crop of Colombia and this incentivised the Government to allow foreign companies to invest in the coffee industry. 

The Government also introduced subsidy laws in the late 1800s; laws that incentivised the planting of coffee trees and the creation of large farms. Such subsidies, not to mention the selling of public land to farmers, accelerated the coffee production in Nicaragua. 

Jump to the late 20th century, and the Nicaraguan coffee industry is a host of tens of thousands of coffee ‘fincas’ (or farms), along with involving close to 300, 000 workers. Traceability has been a historical issue within the issue, as most coffees were sold as a mill brand. Today, the traceability of coffee is considered to be very high. 

Nicaragua has been affected by particular disruptions, namely the Cold War, bans on imports and civil unrests that have affected the local coffee industry. Regardless, coffee is still considered to be the main crop of the country’s economy. 

Coffee

Coffee from Nicaragua bears similarities to coffee beans from other Latin American origins, namely the medium body and the balanced mouthfeel. A quintessential Nicaraguan coffee also showcases high-tone flavour characteristics (e.g. citrus and floral notes) and a milder acidity compared to other Central American coffees.

Coffee Region

All that being said, here’s a quick rundown of three key coffee-growing regions of Nicaragua:

Jinotega 

Derived from the word ‘xinotencatl’ (believed to mean “city of old men”), Jinotega has become the chief market name of Nicaraguan coffee. The region is known for using shade-growing practices for producing Caturra and Bourbon coffees that showcase a sweet and well-rounded profile. 

Matagalpa

This region features a mixture of estates and cooperatives which produce both Caturra and Bourbon coffees. Managua was the first region to host commercial coffee plantations. Today, the region has become the quintessence of Nicaraguan coffee. With low acidity and notes of fruit and honey, Matagalpan coffee is a sweet and mild-bodied beverage. 

Nueva Segovia

Located on the northern border of Nicaragua, the region of Nueva Segovia has become a distinguished coffee-producing region, garnering accolades in the Cup of Excellence competition. The coffee produced in this region is recognised by the hints of chocolate and fruit, along with showcasing a nougat sweetness. This coffee is typically grown at a high altitude of 1,000 to 1,400 meters.

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